Read our new interview with Jill Scott after the release of her fifth studio album, "Woman."
Jill Scott still likes to take long walks; though these days, she's accompanied by her 6-year-old son, Jet. Unlike the girl who had time to fall in and out of love, we learned that Jill Scott's womanhood is versed in preparation and purpose. She spoke to ESSENCE.com about her new outlook, motherhood, true longevity and her fifth studio album.
Woman is the shortest title of all your studio albums. Was choosing a one-word title a conscience decision?
Well, I’ve always been searching for the answer to the initial question which was, “Who is Jill Scott?” This answer is plain and simple. It’s complex, as well. There’s so many dimensions to a woman and I believe, for me, this is a departure from the girl. I love the girl that lives in me. I love her, but this Woman has overpowered her. And I like it, a lot.
As Jill Scott the woman, do you find it easier to define who you are?
To be so definitive about who you are is always a challenge because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring that could change me forever. Today, I am a person that enjoys putting my hands in the dirt and growing my food. I am a person who still takes long walks. I’m a voyeur. I like to watch people live, laugh and have conversations. I’m an “ear-hustler.” I like to read. It’s imperative that I get rest, I’ve learned. I’m a romantic. My child comes before everything. I have a whole new reason to exist and it’s better than anything I’ve ever done. I’m on a mission, that I do know.
Throughout your show, you talked about handling past relationships in a song. When you lose love, do you listen to your own music? How do you find strength to move on?
[Laughs] What I do is, I allow it. I allow my feelings to be hurt. A girl blames the guy for breaking her heart. A woman looks at her own decision to date that guy, or girl, or whoever it is that you’re dating. You are accountable for who you allow in your life. You are accountable for what you do with them. There are so many places in this album where I listen back and say, “Well, God-darn girl, you better say it!”
But, I journal it out. I cry it out. I sing it out. I take long baths. I take walks. I exercise, I buy new clothes. I do something that feeds me and I check the hell out of myself so I don’t make the same mistakes by dating the same person, again. Our choices become our habits. It becomes, “This is who I like,” when clearly who you like isn’t benefiting you.
“Back Together” on Woman is dedicated to your 6-year-old son, Jet. How has being a mother changed you as a woman and an artist?
He is the impetus of my own accountability. I don’t want to bring people into his life who aren’t healthy for him. It matters to me how he views me. It matters that I’ve done the best I can to make a good decision because everything that I do is shaping who he is. I love him more every day and I want to be an example.
I bring him out on the road with me because I want to be with him and he wants to be with me but this existence is hard. I needed him to see what it’s like to work. I need him to see the payoff in the audience singing along, but I also need him to be in rehearsal so he can see the work that goes along with it. I don’t want my son to be the kind of person who doesn’t have a work ethic.
Is he a kid that loves to be a “celebrity kid,” or is he chill about it?
He’s pretty chill. He just says things like, “Mommy everybody loves you.” That’s when we get to the realness. [I tell him] “Not everybody loves mommy, some people really love what I do and they’re grateful for it and that’s what you’re seeing. But love? Love is between me and you.”
[Love] is not predicated on if I sang the song right or if I made a great album. It’s because we belong to each other. I’m not a fame kind of person. It’s a beautiful thing to have people appreciate what you do and respect is all I’ve ever really wanted.
Speaking of respect, you’ve had 15 successful years in the music industry. Music was different back then, in regards to R&B especially and you addressed “getting back to feelings” during your set in Brooklyn. What do you think needs to happen in music for people to want to sing about feelings again?
I think that artists have to remember that the songs that they’re singing are going to follow them for the rest of their lives. The weight is heavier than what a single that works today is. I think they’re creating a lot of microwaveable music and not thinking about longevity.
My career is not Diana Ross’ career, is not Beyonce’s career, is not Nina Simone’s career. My career is my career but we all have a stamp of who we are in our music. Longevity is a point and purpose.
Look at Frankie Beverly and Maze. They hadn’t put out a record in 30 years but when Frankie Beverly was singing at a concert, you were there with your hands up in the air singing “Golden Time of Day.” The music had emotion and it had a story. It is something that still feels good or sad or heartbroken because these are the things that human beings continue to feel. We are always going to be in love, or heartbroken or angry, or confused or solid or getting it together or falling apart. We create the mosaic of life and I think that’s what artists need to try and remember. But that’s my opinion.
I like to Nae-Nae, too. [Laughs]
Ha! We will see what happens. It seems people like Kendrick, J. Cole, Miguel and a few others are trying to bring back music that is about more than partying.
We will see! All I know is, there were a lot of artists out when Marvin Gaye was out but who do we remember?
Jill Scott's new album, Woman, is available for purchase now.